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What are my healthcare rights?
Healthcare rights ensure all patients and carers in Australia receive safe, high-quality care in partnership with healthcare providers. This article explains your rights and what to do if you feel they have been denied.
Australians’ healthcare rights are set out in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights. These rights apply to any healthcare you receive, anywhere in Australia, including in public hospitals, private hospitals, general practice and in the community.
The 7 basic healthcare rights are listed below:
- Access: You have a right to healthcare services and treatment that meet your needs.
- Safety: You have a right to receive safe and high-quality healthcare that meets national standards, and to be cared for in an environment that is safe and makes you feel safe.
- Respect: You have a right to be treated as an individual, and with dignity and respect. Your culture, identity, beliefs and choices must be recognised and respected.
- Partnership: You have a right to ask questions and be involved in open and honest communication. You can make decisions with your healthcare provider, to the extent that you choose and are able to, and you may include the people that you want in planning and decision-making.
- Information: You have a right to receive clear information about your condition, as well as the possible benefits and risks of different tests and treatments, so you can give your informed consent. You can receive information about services, waiting times and costs, and be given assistance, when you need it, to help you understand and use that health information. You also have the right to access your health information. You must be told if something has gone wrong during your healthcare, including how it happened, how it may affect you and what is being done to make your care safe.
- Privacy: You have a right to have your personal privacy respected — information about you and your health must be kept secure and confidential.
- Give feedback: You have a right to provide feedback or make a complaint without it affecting the way that you are treated. Your concerns should be addressed in a transparent and timely way, and you have the right to share your experience and to participate in the improvement of the quality of care and health services.
If you are eligible for Medicare, you are entitled to free or subsidised healthcare in hospital and from general practitioners and specialists. You are entitled to free treatment and accommodation as a public patient in a public hospital and, through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), to subsidised medicines.
To find out if you are eligible, contact Medicare.
Why should I know my healthcare rights?
The best health outcomes are achieved when patients, families and healthcare providers work together. Knowing and understanding your rights means you can help the health system to help you. For example, a doctor may not realise you don’t understand something unless you tell them.
Exercising your right to communication by asking questions means it’s more likely you will understand and receive the best possible care.
Australia is a nation of different people with many different cultures and ways of life. Healthcare rights make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity in the healthcare system.
How do I make a healthcare complaint?
If you feel your rights have been denied or that you have received poor care, you can make a complaint.
It’s a good idea to speak directly to the health professional at first. Either you can speak to them, or you can have someone — such as a family member, carer or guardian — to represent you. You can also speak to another health professional in their organisation if you prefer.
If you’re not satisfied with what happens, you can lodge a formal complaint with the health complaints organisation in your state or territory:
- ACT: Health Services Commissioner (via the ACT Human Rights Commission) 02 6205 2222
- NSW: Health Care Complaints Commission 1800 043 159
- Northern Territory: Health And Community Services Complaints Commission (HCSCC) 1800 004 474
- Queensland: Office of the Health Ombudsman 133 133 646
- South Australia: Health And Community Services Complaints Commissioner (HCSCC) (08) 8226 8666/ 1800 232 007
- Tasmania: Health Complaints Commissioner 1800 001 170
- Victoria: Health Complaints Commissioner 1300 582 113 or the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner 1800 246 054
- Western Australia: Health and Disability Services Complaints Office (HaDSCO) (08) 6551 7600 or 1800 813 583
You can make complaints about aged care services nationally via the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on 1800 951 822.
If you are concerned a health practitioner may be behaving in a way that could present a risk to you, to other patients or to members of the public, you should contact the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
What is advocacy?
If someone can’t stand up for their healthcare rights themselves, another person can do it for them. This is called advocacy.
Advocacy can protect your rights and make sure you aren’t discriminated against. Sometimes advocacy involves groups of people lobbying to fix problems within the healthcare system.
If you are caring for someone whose healthcare rights have been denied, you can talk directly to the healthcare provider or follow the steps above to make a complaint.
People with disability have a right to advocacy under the National Disability Advocacy Program. This provides an advocate to people who don’t have friends or family who can do it. They can also help people navigate the healthcare system or the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
To find a disability advocate, visit the Disability Advocacy Finder here.
Resources and support
For more information and support, try these resources:
- Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights
- My Aged Care advocacy services
- Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) — individual advocacy for children and young people with disability and their family
- Carer Gateway
- Australian Human Rights Commission
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Last reviewed: July 2019